Steak on the Stovetop

This is a story about trust.

And steaks.

And statistics.

When you’re cooking a slab of steak, you have to trust.

Trust that the marinade or rub has imparted enough flavor.

Trust that each side will turn out beautifully.

Trust that the steak will cook completely, to your desired doneness, after you let it rest.

When you’re looking at statistics though, you can’t always trust.

Sure, with statistics, you can spew out probabilities and predictions. But when you’re a human being dealing with statistics – say, you’re David Ortiz, designated hitter – numbers don’t always tell the whole story. Sometimes you can practically be a model for baseball statistics when you keep hitting it out of the ball park, and then one day defy all statistics and strike out. Or sometimes you hit walkoff home runs. 17 times.

A few years ago, my dad and I watched a Red Sox game in Fenway.  I was almost bouncing up and down with excitement, I was so happy to be there.  There we were, on iconic Fenway Park, my baseball-loving dad and I. We were waiting for Big Papi to do something big during the game. Something headline-worthy. Statistics show that’s what he does. We trusted him.

It was a hot day, with the sun beating down on us, and Big Papi fired up the crowds every time he went to bat. David Ortiz ended up hitting a home run that day, but the Sox lost. I felt disappointed. Drained. Hungry. My dad consoled me, even though he was the bigger fan. We went straight to Petit Robert Bistro. We shared some desserts. We ate more chocolate. Everything felt alright again.

My dad is my hero, and he has taught me a lot of things: how to trust people and exhibit loyalty; how to appreciate the beauty of numbers and the finiteness of formulas; how to understand statistics, economics, Roman history, Lord of the Rings, and many things in between; how to love books, as in really love them, and read lots of them; how to stay calm and control my temper; how to work hard, and to consistently work hard, for anything I am passionate about; how to relish all things sweet; and how to cook a steak.

I learned how to cook a great steak – with a golden brown crust, and a tender pink inside – on the stovetop.  No grill, no oven roasting time, but just with a hot pan, some seasonings, and a lot of patience.

Here’s the secret: once you put it on the pan, don’t touch it. Just flip it once, and don’t touch it again. Then let it rest. Trust.

Saveur has a basic tutorial on how to cook steak on the stovetop. Just know that there’s really no recipe. But there is a method:

Buy a tender, well-marbled cut (I am partial to ribeye), marinate it (maybe some garlic, soy sauce, and worcestershire sauce) or use a dry rub (here I used an Herbs de Provance salt mix on a steak that’s a little less than a pound). In a cast iron skillet or other heavy-duty pan, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Place the steak on the pan, and let it cook for 7-8 minutes on one side for medium rare steak. Don’t touch it! Then flip and do the same for the other side.  Remove steak from heat. Place a small knob of butter on top of the steak and let the meat rest for 5-10 minutes.

You’ll end up with the best steak you can cook at home. No statistics needed.

Cheers to my dad: steak-master, baseball follower, genius economist, fellow dessert-eater, leader, provider, protector, my biggest fan, my most enduring idol, the man I trust and love the most.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy! I love you from the bottom of my heart.


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